Easter Bread or Kozunak
Hello dear reader, the following guide is
intended to be a simple and yet concise instruction manual on
preparing Bulgarian Easter Bread. The writing of this guide
started around the beginning of 2011 and was then written by me
Petko Komsalov as a simple set of instructions for the making of
the recipe that I distributed to friends. Since then the recipe
has been slowly tweaked to perfection with the help of my father
Krastyo Komsalov and as you will see there is everything inside to
ensure that anyone can enjoy a homemade Kozunak as long as he has
a dough making machine (or hands if not) and few simple utensils.
The guide is separated in three distinct pieces: a list of the
ingredients and preparations necessary, instructions for the
making of the bread and finally a troubleshooting section useful
if something goes awry. My hope is that whoever finds this recipe
succeeds in his endeavor of making Kozunak bread. Feel free to
mail any suggestions or improvements to the following address your
efforts will be acknowledged. Good Luck!
First find a bread baking foil
container, here is mine (a must have). It is where you will deposit
the long bread, let it rise few times and then bake it. The bottom
will be oiled so that the bread doesn’t stick after it is baked.
The purpose of the above foil container is to
hold the bread constricted from both sides allowing the final
bread to rise in the right direction (namely upward). My container
illustrated on the last page was made by twisting a rectangular
aluminum baking plate (largest size) that was bought for 2 bucks
at a Dollarama store. The diameter is 18cm and the length is 60cm
(the plate was 60cm long and 22cm wide before I twisted both ends
through the long middle axis). Make sure you find a proper similar
container before you start or you will find that executing the
final steps in the preparation is hard. Notice, that in the second
picture on the right, there is a light thin cloth. It is used to
cover the container so you can have a higher moisture level during
the final rising of the dough. Also sometimes in order to get at
30°C I would preheat my oven for 50 seconds in order to just
raise by 10°C the temperature inside (turn the oven off after the
50 seconds or you’ll kill the dough BAD ) and then I’ll
put the covered container inside the oven to let it rise. You may
add some water in the oven as well so that the humidity is high.
Make sure though that the temperature is not above 30°C or you
will kill the yeast.
is the remainder of the ingredients in exact amounts (note this
is a sensitive recipe and all must be exact):
300 ml (3% Milk).
3 eggs (medium).
750 gr flour (needs to be exact), I use Baker’s Hood Bleached
140 gr of sugar.
3 to 4 tea spoons of yeast. (Quick Raise for bread machines is the
80gr of butter.
Vanilla extract (on taste about 2 spoons based on concentration).
1 tea spoon of salt.
Dry raisins about 2 handfuls held with both hands (use yellow golden
raisins average size).
3 to 4 soup spoons of wheat gluten (is found in most grocery
(Lastly at the end you will need some egg yolk 1 or 2 yolks mixed as
well as some brown sugar and a little extra milk for the yolks).
Also have 2-3 clean thin leather towels at hand so you can cover the
freshly baked bread for 30 minutes before eating some of it or
The mixture in the following steps will be
prepared inside the bread machine container so there is no need to
mix anything besides when indicated, Warm the 300 ml of milk to
about 25 to 30°C and add to it 2 spoons of sugar (from the 140
gr) and 2 (of the 3) spoons of yeast. Mix (manually) and dissolve
the sugar and yeast present in the milk and let the whole incubate
for about 10 minutes. Add to the mixture the 3 eggs directly. Add
to the mixture the vanilla extract. Melt the 80 gr of butter (45
sec in microwave inside a little cup) do not overheat just melt.
Add the melted butter to the mix. Add the 750 gr of flour, the
remaining sugar (from the 140 gr), the 1 tea spoon of salt, the
wheat gluten and the last spoon of yeast.
Insert the bread machine
container filled with the above ingredients inside the bread
machine and initiate the bread dough making program (this program
only plows the dough and lets it rise, but doesn’t bake it). As
the cycle completes the mixing section (30 min) and prepares for
the incubation abort the program (since you want only the mixing
part from the bread machine). Now restart the same program so that
after 5-10 minutes the bread can get another 30 minute section of
hard mixing. When around 10 minutes are left for the second mixing
cycle to complete add all the raisins (2 handfuls, you should have
50 min of mixing behind you and 10 min more to go). Let the
program complete this time without aborting it allowing the dough
to rise, but don’t let it stand inside until it hits the cover.
Basically you run the program twice for an hour of mixing letting
it complete itself the second time with the incubation so the
dough can grow inside the machine. The dough will now be highly
fibrous and elastic and it should be possible to knead it.
Once this is done take the
dough out without paying attention to squishing it a little since
this won’t be the final incubation and rising (let it loose about
1 quarter to 1 sixth of its volume). Plow (knead) the dough
shortly to shape it so that you get a fat rod shape (like a fat
bacterium). Cut the dough with a sharp knife at 2 places at equal
intervals in order to create 3 equal pieces (like this (---) |
(---) | (---)).
Elongate the three pieces gently by letting the gravity do the job
(let one end hover in the air while you hold the other end make
sure you are not breaking too much the gummy fibrous dough) or by
gently kneading them. Each long piece should be identical in
length and thickness, this is important; you should have 3 long
fibers that are about 8 cm in diameter throughout their length of
about 50-60 cm.
Now you must braid the three long pieces in order to form
the hallmark shape of the bread (note as you braid make sure
torsion is applied on the elastic dough but the fiber is not
broken the cooked bread should be fibrous and the direction of
kneading should be apparent within it). Here are some pictures
explaining braiding and showing how the bread should look.
This is how you will braid the three
pieces, as you braid them depose the braided end in the preoiled long foil
container (first page). After this is done cover
the foil container with the wet cloth and put the whole to
incubate at 25-30°C (I do this in the oven very risky).
The bread should be complete and risen to its 2 to 3 times
larger full size in about 2 hours, but time may vary so pay
attention to it every hour or so. The total time it takes to
rise to completion (x2.5 larger) is 2-4 hours.
Justin McInteer, Autry
Somewhat fugly ends make sure you connect
in a prettier manner, but overall good example especially in
the midsection. The bread should have a length of about 35
to 40 cm so it can fit nicely in your container and have
sufficient room for longitudinal growth.
As you braid the three long
pieces ensure that the forming bread is deposited inside your foil
container since this is where the final rising will occur not on a
flat surface as seen in the picture (as your bread will rise kind of
flat in all directions, believe me). Now that this is done cover
with the wet cloth the foil container and put the bread for the
second longer and last rising at 25-30°C (I do this in the oven
very risky). Each 1 hour open the oven and lift the cloth so that
you can verify how much the bread has risen and then recover it and
close the oven. Make sure the temperature inside never exceeds
30°C and that the oven is turned off (only a quick preheat,
before the foil container with the bread is put in, is needed). The
rising might take a lot of time due to the characteristics of the
2-4 Hours Later (Some people
even suggest overnight)
Now that the 3 bread pieces
are braided together and the bread has risen you will need to
complete some final modifications to the surface of the bread (yolk
brushing and decoration) before putting it the preheated oven
(180°C). First you must break 1 or 2 eggs carefully and separate
the yolk (yellow ball) from the egg white and then break it and mix
it (only yolk). Now add some milk to the thick yolk mush in order to
get a slightly less viscous consistency that can be used to brush
the bread’s surface. Use a large brush (I use a clean paint brush)
preferably and be extremely careful not to hurt the surface of the
risen bread or it may puff and blow and the whole recipe will be
ruined (which is very frustrating).
After this is done sprinkle the yolky damp surface with brown or
even white sugar, don’t just throw a ton, or the sugar may start
burning when you bake (use an average amount and judgment). Here is
a picture of the bread at this stage with the brushing and
Good containers, buy something like this
if you want. Make sure though that size is 18cm wide and
60cm long or you will need to make two or more smaller
breads, which is not recommended.
Now that your bread has risen (second final
time), is carefully covered with egg yolk, has been sprinkled with
sugar (some people also add other decorations like poppy flower
seeds etc), you are ready to proceed with the baking. Baking is a
touchy part due to the large amount of sugar used inside the dough
and sprinkled on the surface. The bread can basically be raw at
one instant then cooked 5 minutes later and then another 5 minutes
later it can be completely burned, pay attention to it. The baking
happens at 180°C inside a preheated oven and takes about 45
minutes you won’t need the cloth at this point since it will burn
if you accidentally left it covering the container (stupid, but
possible). Proceed to the 20th minute of baking and at this point
cover the bread without taking it out of the oven with foil paper
in order to prevent excessive baking of the surface or burning
(note this is important as soon as the surface has a desired
appearance cover the foil container with the aluminum paper).
The aluminum foil should have the following specifics: 70cm long
and 30cm wide. When covering just spread the rectangular foil
paper on the surface of the container, don’t burn yourself trying
to tightly cover, just throw it on top in a logical shape and way.
At this point you should have 25 minutes to go until the bread is
complete do frequent checks by lifting the foil cover. In the last
5 minutes based on judgment you can lower the temperature to
170°C in order to extend the baking time by few minutes so
that your bread doesn’t burn on top and is not raw within.
After the bread is cooked take it out of the
oven removing the foil cover and taking the container outside.
Careful at this point, if you got that far you will notice that
the bread is long hot and soft. In order to take it out of the
container a lot of precise movements must be used. If you feel it
is impossible cover the container on top with 2 or 3 towels. If
you took the whole bread out then wove it inside the 2 or 3
towels. Keep the bread covered in towels for about 30 minutes and
then cut it in 2 halves or many thin (1-2 cm) pieces. Package it
or eat as much as you want with Yogurt as a side dish and enjoy
your success. Good Luck!!!
My dough did not have the proper consistency.
Make sure you use a precise balance and follow the recipe well.
The dough is dead and refuses to grow.
You either added too much sugar or salt, which kills the dough, or
you forgot to turn the oven off during one of the incubations in
case you used the oven. This means the yeast got heated and died.
The dough is growing well but in all directions and
the final bread lacks esthetics.
Try using a better tighter and more appropriate container or if the
dough consistency is viscous use more flour let us say 755 gr next
time. Note even flour humidity may be an important factor.
Rising occurs, but is slow.
Augment moisture and temperature, also the yeast may be dying due
too much sugar/salt (or maybe your yeast starter is old).
Use lower temperature cover well and check it every 2 minutes at the